Execution backs up Orioles once more


TORONTO -- About all the Orioles are executing these days is themselves.

In the book, yesterday's 5-4 loss in 12 innings to the Toronto Blue Jays looks like just another one-run loss, of which there have already been too many (26, as opposed to 13 wins). But anybody watching with any degree of intensity knows better.

Among those was manager John Oates, who didn't need a master diagrammer, and starting pitcher Dave Johnson, who admitted to a "stupid" mistake that was possibly the difference between a win and a loss.

The defeat unjustly was pinned on reliever Gregg Olson (3-5), who escaped a precarious situation in the 10th and was beginning his third inning on the mound. Joe Carter's slicing fly ball hit off Chito Martinez's glove in the rightfield corner to set up the winning run, which scored on a ground ball single by Cory Snyder.

But, by then, the 12th inning was merely salt in an open wound. The Orioles didn't score after getting three runs off Tom Candiotti in the second inning, had only one hit after the sixth, and didn't help themselves defensively in between.

"The game should have been won 4-1," said Oates, who was not in a good mood after the final decision had been rendered.

The most costly play was Todd Frohwirth's failure to get what should have been a routine double play on a ground ball hit by Kelly Gruber in the sixth inning. That cost two runs.

But the most glaring mistake was made by Johnson, who might have bought himself some more time later had he not committed the cardinal sin of not backing up third base on Turner Ward's ground ball single to rightfield in the second inning. That cost one run, which may have figured in Oates' decision to remove Johnson after a leadoff single by John Olerud in the sixth.

"It was a mental mistake," said Johnson. "It was stupid and when you look at the end [result], it cost us the game."

Gruber, who had singled with two outs in the second, drew a throw from Martinez on Ward's single as he went to third base. Shortstop Cal Ripken bluffed a cutoff to keep Ward at first base and there would have been a play at third had the ball not glanced off the sliding Gruber. Johnson did not get behind third baseman Leo Gomez on the play and Gruber had no trouble scoring when the ball rolled toward the third base dugout.

"You have nothing to lose by backing up the play . . . in this case you lose a run by not backing up," said Oates.

"I had broken toward first when the ball was hit, then when it went through I went over to back up," said Johnson, who was then deked by Ripken's bluff. "I thought . . . I assumed Rip was going to cut it off."

In this case, assuming might have cost Johnson more than a run at a time he had a 4-0 lead. "If it's 4-0 instead of 4-1, I may have given him another hitter, I'm not sure," said Oates. "He made some good pitches, but he had given up seven hits. If you project that, and you have to, that's 13 or 14 hits over nine innings. As it was, I was comfortable making the move."

He wasn't comfortable with what followed. After Candy Maldonado hit a flukish looper that barely cleared the head of first baseman Glenn Davis, Gruber followed with his ground ball. Frohwirth nearly threw the ball into centerfield, and was able to get only a force out when Ripken made a great play to catch the ball thrown behind him.

"To me, that was the most important play of the game," said Oates. "If we make that play, Davis is back and the next ball [a chopper by Ward] doesn't go over his head."

One run scored on Ward's hit and another when pinch-hitter Rance Mulliniks hit a high bouncer to Davis for the second out. Frohwirth's delivery to second base was similar (sidearm), but not identical to the one he uses when pitching (underhanded).

It is difficult at best to master one, let alone two unorthodox lTC throwing styles, and Frohwirth thinks that is at least part of the problem.

"I can't throw [to the bases] the same way I pitch because it takes so long," said the rookie reliever. "I'm afraid I might not even get the guy going to second. This time I didn't see the base and I just threw to Cal [moving toward second]. If he wasn't so great the ball would've gone into centerfield. It's something I've got to work on."

What makes yesterday's game particularly painful for Oates is that it came during a stretch of 12 games the Orioles are playing against the division leaders -- a time they hoped to establish some credibility.

They are 3-7 in 10 straight games against Minnesota and Toronto, with two remaining against the Blue Jays here the next two nights.

Playing giveaway is no way to impress anybody, and the Orioles are the type team that cannot fail to execute. When that happens, their only victims are themselves.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad